ERIN, Wis. (AP) — Paul Casey discovered how little it takes to make a big number in the U.S. Open. And at this U.S. Open, he showed how a quick recovery is never too far away.
Casey laid up in the rough, took two chops to get out of more rough behind the 14th green, and staggered away with a triple-bogey 8 that might have ruined his day at Erin Hills. Moments later, he began a run of five straight birdies that put him right where he wanted to be going into the weekend.
Casey finished his wild day with six straight pars for a 1-under 71 to set the target Friday.
He was at 7-under 137, two shots clear of anyone else who played early in warm sunshine on a course that getting dry and crispy.
Rickie Fowler, the 18-hole leader, made an 8-foot birdie on No. 2 and was just getting going.
“Not every day you enjoy a round of golf with an 8 on the card, but I’m a pretty happy man,” Casey said. “Yeah, it was a bit of a roller coaster. I guess it’s rare you get through a U.S. Open or any major without some kind of a hiccup.”
Rory McIlroy and Jason Day never recovered from theirs.
Day, who won the 2015 PGA Championship up the road at Whistling Straits, had to birdie his last hole Thursday to break 80. When it was clear he had nothing going in the second round, he was simply trying to stay out of the way. He shot 75 and missed the cut.
“Guess what? We get to go home today because Daddy played poorly,” Day said to his son, Dash, before walking over to sign autographs.
McIlroy, playing for the first time in a month to rest a nagging rib injury, finally got it going when it was too late. He birdied four of his last six holes – he missed two birdie putts of 10 feet and two-putted for birdie on the par-5 seventh – to rally for a 71. That still didn’t appear to be nearly enough.
“Showed up for the last six holes, anyway,” he said.
Si Woo Kim, who captured The Players Championship a month ago, had a 70 and was at 5-under 139 along with a pair of U.S. Open newcomers. PGA Tour rookie Xander Schauffele didn’t make a bogey at Erin Hills until his 27th hole, had his hiccup with a double bogey on the par-3 13th hole but still managed a 73. Cameron Champ, who just finished his junior year at Texas A&M, birdied his last hole for a 69.
Also playing in the afternoon was Dustin Johnson, the defending champion and No. 1 player in the world, who opened with a 75. Johnson birdied his opening two holes of the second round in his bid to first make sure he had a tee time Saturday, and then try to make up ground on the lead.
Casey did his part to set the pace, even after his triple bogey.
His problems started when he tried to lay up and round the right rough. With a blind shot to the green, he went long into deeper hay, and his first hack at it moved the ball only a few feet. The next one went long, he chipped up to 12 feet and took two putts from there.
“It was a good display – all my own fault – but a good display of what can happen if you get out of position on this golf course, which is what I did on 14,” Casey said. “Even just trying to take my medicine is very, very difficult. It’s a good 8 in the end.”
Casey’s five birdies were one short of the U.S. Open record last matched the day before by Adam Hadwin. Even as the course slowly recovered from rain early in the week, reasonable scores were available.
Bill Haas played bogey-free in his round of 68 and joined a group at 4-under 140 that included Harris English (69) and Marc Leishman (72).
Still to be determined was who made it to the weekend, and where the cut would fall. The record for a lowest cut was 1-over 145 at Medinah in 1990. When the afternoon wave began, it was at 1 over with a possibility of going to 2 over, depending on the wind.
But there was no hope for Day and McIlroy.
The top three players in the world have never missed the cut in the same major dating to when the world ranking began in 1986. Johnson was doing his part to make sure that didn’t happen. McIlroy could only take some optimism away from his finish. Day had no answers.
“I felt the most calm I have in a major in a long time this week,” he said. “And just unfortunately, this didn’t pan out.”